Thursday, August 2, 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser - Refilling the Well 4

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”
   - Albert Einstein

Last time, I wrote about the value of curiosity to writers. But do you actively develop your curiosity? Do you know how to do it?

We all know how curious children can be, so it’s not surprising that developing child-like virtues can support developing curiosity. Humility, tenacity, wonder and play all provide elements needed to explore an odd or unexpected fact. But some traits that might not be considered virtuous (though they are certainly child-like) can come in handy, too. Obsession, rudeness and unreasonableness may be just as important to develop… within bounds.

At the same time, some more adult characteristics are important. Doubt is chief among these, especially as training or the voices of those less curious provide explanations that may be almost right. In addition to a healthy skepticism, innovators who want to be more curious should take the view that things are unfinished and that there is room for improvement. Sometimes demanding a higher standard and imagining that it is achievable goes hand in hand with a curious nature.

Here are a few suggestions on things to do to help you develop your own curiosity:
  • Put yourself into new situations that challenge your worldview (and imagine they are true)
  • Actively observe, rigorously recording the input to all your senses
  • Come up with your own list of great questions
  • Question the status quo
  • Give yourself permission to look at things differently
  • Build your skills at investigating
  • Have a perspective
  • Make time for curiosity
  • Be persistent
  • Keep notes on your observations, insights and conclusions
  • Solve puzzles
  • Get other perspectives

In addition, you can create an environment that stimulates curiosity. Make sure it includes:
  • Adequate resources for basic needs
  • Enough free or available time
  • Exposure to variety of inputs
  • A limit to distractions, especially when you are likely to be in a curious state
  • Forgiveness for wrong roads taken and work not done
  • Proper training and tools for investigation and analysis

Unbridled curiosity is probably bad for a career and bad for relationships.  But most writers are well aware that creating something new is a risk endeavor.  Curiosity can be chancy, but the right dose of curiosity can make writing more fun and lead to unexpected benefits. 

This entry is derived in part from an article I wrote while at IBM, Need to Know: How curiosity drives innovation.


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